Gifts of Impermanence
If you have ever moved - ever packed up your worldly belongings and lugged them from place to place - then you will appreciate this rhetorical question: How much 'stuff' does one really need? Other than a ukulele and a grain grinder, I can't say I want for anything right now, which is why I'm asking my Loved Ones to gift me (and others) with Things That Go Away. For example:
Pillars of fragrant (or non) waxy goodness are everywhere - you could not escape them if you tried. Grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, craft stores, liquor stores, farmers markets and quirky boutiques, not to mention online. My mother has a giant drawer with candles "too pretty to use" - a sad concept. Candles are lit every evening in my home, as a form of nightly ritual, and they create a calming mood like nothing else can. Beeswax candles are especially yummy and drip-free are preferred.
At some point, everyone showers, so a soap gift will most assuredly not be collecting dust over the years. (Unless you are my mother, and then you would keep a special drawer for that too.) I'm a huge fan of LUSH soaps and Etsy has a gajillion homemade offerings. The button soap is especially cute.
In this realm, I'm committed to products that do not test on animals, which is pretty easy to apply nowadays, thank goodness. Again, I go back to LUSH (Skin Drink is my all time favorite facial application) but am also partial to Body Shop, Burt's Bees and Bath & Body Works. Lotion goes especially fast if you live in a dry climate like mine where it is always appreciated. (Seriously, they pass around tubes of lotion at parties, like a friggin' J.)
Maybe it's something you have cooked up and packaged yourself, or maybe it's something fancy from Harry & David. Maybe it's the most delicious handmade chocolate you have ever tasted from a remote roadside stand or those incredibly addictive suckers from See's Candy. Either way, food is love. Unless it's a fruitcake, and then it's just a threat.
Depending on the recipient, this could mean something region-specific from a microbrewery or a tawny port from that fancy grog store down the street. Maybe it's a bottle of vino that matches their dining tastes or some bubbly to celebrate the holidays. Once again, my mother keeps a special closet (in my brother's old room) full of wine gifts for "social emergencies." (Much too much White Zinfandel leftover from the 80s, I'm afraid.) Or better yet, a fat bottle of their favorite bottle of hard alcohol. (Maker's Mark for me, thanks.) For non-drinkers, fancy Italian soda will delight equally.
Usually, people received floral arrangements on Mother's Day or Valentine's Day so this gift throws them a little, which is awesome. Seniors especially enjoy holiday floral arrangements as they bring lots of joy and fragrance with little or no maintenance.
This is the gift that no one ever expects: hands-on knowledge. Find out their newest interest and encourage that passion with some expert instruction. I bought a local tennis clinic for my brother and am seeking clay sculpture classes for his wife, who once exhibited freakishly natural sculpting abilities with a hunk of snow. Fact is, they have way too much stuff already, what they need now are enriching ways to unwind.
Again, tailored to a recipients' lifestyle and interests. A Netflix subscription or Massage Envy membership could go a long way toward helping someone chill out. In the other direction, maybe a gym membership (careful with this one, guys) a Toastmasters group could get someone off the couch and out of their shell.
Getting pampered for 30 minutes or an hour is one of the most luxurious experiences a human can have. A gift certificate, likely redeemed in post-holiday wind-down of 2012, will be treasured more than you can imagine.
I know there are some of you freaks out there who like to clean but I am not one of them and I'm guessing I have company. What would you rather receive, yet another photo frame, an ugly sweater or a spotless house?
BlogHer Section Editor, LIFE & GREEN; Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns; Proprietor, ClizBiz